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Theresa Palfi: “Is Horváth only allowed to be played by Austrians?”

Theresa Palfi: “Is Horváth only allowed to be played by Austrians?”
Theresa Palfi was nominated for the Nestroy as Elizabeth in “Maria Stuart”.
Image: PETRA MOSER
Petra Moser
In “On the Need for a Lake to Disappear”
Image: Petra Moser
Theresa Palfi
Theresa Palfi is also a hand embroiderer.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD

Sometimes it is supposed detours that lead to the goal. If Theresa Palfi wasn’t a hand-embroidery journeyman, she might not have become an actress. “During my three years of training, I realized that I really wanted to do something different. Embroidery is creative, but very static. I had such a longing to express myself, that’s why I went to the theater youth club in Regensburg,” remembers the 37-year-old, who breathed stage air from an early age: “My mother is a make-up artist. I grew up in the theater.”

Climate change and femicide

After her training at the Mozarteum Salzburg and an engagement at the Mainfranken Theater Würzburg, the Linz State Theater has been the Potsdam native’s professional home since 2016: “I feel very at home here,” she says and appreciates “the solidarity among colleagues, the shared critical exchange, dealing with each other in a trusting manner. It’s very special how the ensemble has grown together here.”

Theresa Palfi can currently be seen in the premiere of “On the Necessity of a Lake Disappearing” by Anna Neata. As a journalist, she comes to a lakeside village whose water level drops in the heat and reveals a dark secret: “I find the play very exciting because it opens up topics that rarely appear in drama. I don’t know anything about climate change and femicide. As is so often the case, the story is told about a love affair. I didn’t even think about the fact that they were two women. I was very shocked when I read in a review that this homosexual love was contemporary and not necessary. That confirms how necessary it is that it is apparently an issue. Or when it is said that difficult topics are being discussed, such as femicide, homosexuality and climate change. How can homosexuality be described as a difficult topic?”

Petra Moser
In “On the Need for a Lake to Disappear”
Image: Petra Moser

This time the performance is on the smaller studio stage, which is a new experience for her: “The audience is almost sitting on your lap. Monologues to the audience alternate with scenes from the game, which was fun.”

What wasn’t always the case: “I used to be very afraid of the audience. I preferred it if I didn’t see people. “That has changed in the last few years,” she looks back on her roles in “worst case / Dunkelziffer” by Kathrin Röggla or Elfriede Jelinek’s play “Schnee Weiß” – which was revived this year – in which she also had to address the audience . “Since then I have been able to enjoy the exchange with the audience. I also notice when I sit in the audience what this direct address does to me and that I want and need that as a viewer. I try to remember that when I play myself.” Your personal mission on stage? “Not to sugarcoat anything, but to look for the dirt that concerns us all,” says Theresa Palfi. “Curiosity” drives her. And: “I find the shamelessness that comes with playing incredibly attractive and liberating.”

Theresa Palfi
Theresa Palfi is also a hand embroiderer.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD

As the “grandiose, fragile Elizabeth” in Schiller’s “Maria Stuart” she was not only highly praised by the OÖNachrichten, but was also nominated for a “Nestroy” in 2020. The jury explained their choice by “promoting the concerns of her character with shocking seriousness.” “I don’t choose the characters, they are assigned to me. The only option I have if I want to take them seriously, commit to them, and represent them is to love them. That’s the be-all and end-all. Even if they do things that you would never do yourself. Even if you try, you often can’t understand everything. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a critical look at my characters.”

She is currently playing Yvette in Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children”, Josephine Zillertal in “Pension Schöller”, Baroness Adele von Stromberg in Nestroy’s “Höllenangst” and mastering the avalanche of text in Jelinek’s “Schnee Weiß” about the case of her ex -Ski racer Nicola Werdenigg.

“I love filling a text with thoughts and going out into the world with it as if it were my own. That’s what it will be.” Except for one thing that will “remain unequaled forever,” she suspects – the Austrian dialect: “The relationship between Austrians and their authors is very special. I understand the pride in language, but what does it ultimately mean? For example, can Horváth only be played by Austrians? Are these texts then even allowed to be performed outside of Austria? Could they then still be translated?” Small stabs at explosive questions.

She resorted to needle and thread again during the lockdowns: “When you embroider, you can see what’s finished every day. That is nice. Playing is much more abstract.” Theresa Palfi has experience in another special art – belly dancing. “That was when I was a teenager. Where did you get that from?!”

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